Joy has been aptly defined in a simple and yet profound acrostic.
Jesus, Others, You.
I like that. Consider the depth of joy as opposed to the shallowness of mere happiness. Happiness is generally derived from outer circumstances, while joy comes from within. Happiness is impacted by good or bad surroundings whereas joy remains constant no matter the events a person may go through. Joy is something that God can put inside your mind when you love and adore Him first in life. We can be happy when our team wins; but if our team losses, we can still have joy. We can get excited when the report comes back good; but when the doctor says, cancer or surgery, we can still have joy.
Speaking of the Macedonian Christians, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:2 “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”
These early Christians were suffering persecution, yet remained joyful in Jesus. Many were tortured and killed for their faith. These believers were known to be poor, yet were rich in spirit and even in sacrificing what little finances they had in order to give to missions work and Gospel ministry. They had and Gospel focus in life.
They were so focused on loving The Lord, and on serving others that in spite of their lack of stuff, they had joy. Even though their circumstances were tragic – they were at peace with God, satisfied with life, and expressed the joy of the Lord in their countenance, actions, and relationships.
Many times, we settle for “pursuing happiness” when we should be seeking, Bible based joy. Even if your circumstances are “less than ideal” or even if it seems like one storm after another comes your way – you can have the joy of the Lord in your life.
Following the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, the people gather together to hear Ezra read the Bible. Following his reading, Nehemiah stands up and says in Nehemiah 8:10, “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The Joy of the Lord is our strength too. Nehemiah says to “go celebrate, but no matter what happens the rest of your life – you can rely the joy of the Lord.” This joy gives us strength and hope for the journey called life. The Jews in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem were to face more troubles and challenges in the days ahead – and we will too. Relying on the power of God can reinforce this idea that no matter the circumstances, the joy of the Lord can be real in our life.
Change the priority and focus of your life. When my love shifts from selfishly loving myself to selflessly loving God, then others, and then far down the list, myself – then joy is can be discovered in my life.
Jesus – First.
Others – Second.
You – Last.
It will change your life.